Last week, on International Women’s Day (awwww shit, this sounds like it’s gonna get
PMT-y) I thanked the men in my life for being exquisite examples of gender equality in action. The guys I drink with, and eat with, and talk with, and email, have never- not once- ever made me feel that I am less than capable of achieving anything that they, too, dream and crave and expect.
I’ve lived quite an unconventional life- okay fine, I continue to lead quite an unconventional life- and I thought any resistance I encountered on my path to world domination was because of the fact that I live equally as content come prince or pauper, never looking at a bank statement, I move to a different country annually, I say vagina quite a lot.
It never occurred to me, probably because of this extraordinary male company I keep, that anyone would object to me based on my gender.
I don’t bandy around the word feminism on this blog because historically I’ve not felt like I have to. I think it’s pretty bloody obvious that as I hurtle from one adventure to the next, snogging boys and negotiating salary and four-day weeks and generally Marco Polo-ing the fuck out of my destiny, that I feel as unrestricted as the next person- be it male or female.
And that’s all feminism is, I think. Are the boys doing it? Then I am too. Oh, that rule doesn’t apply to them? Then me neither. But I don’t pretend to be a man in order to have the same rights as them- I’m unapologetically female, just, you know, with the same entitlement as a penis.
So far, so common sense.
Our working lives aren’t, in my mind, a question of how to be a successful woman. Or man. Our working lives are an extension of our actual lives and thus an issue of how to be a successful human being. That’s genderless.
So when I read recent interviews and watched videos of Facebook top-dog Sheryl Sandberg, about how more women need to get themselves into the world’s more powerful jobs to represent other women, I laughed.
The reason more women aren’t pursuing the kind of job that Sandberg has is because they don’t want it. Balancing a billion dollar paycheck with a family and all that impossibly shiny hair is many a woman’s worst Working Girl nightmare. She doesn't speak for me.
But then, many men don't want what she has, either. Whereas Don Draper was once the dream, collectively we’ve mostly realised that work-life balance is success. Not the best car or highest rate of fear amongst juniors. My best male mates taught me that. Not a lot of people want what Sheryl is preaching, girl or boy.
AND THIS IS WHERE THE BIG REVELATION COMES IN.
My whole “two fingers to the Man” attitude stems from a total incomprehension about the metrics we use to define success. More money. Bigger office. Longer hours. Responsibility. The glorification of busy. My entire social group largely eschews these things in favour of say, flexible hours, creative control, choosing who they work with and being their own boss. That’s success.
When I investigated Sandberg a little closer, I realised that what she is actually saying, though, in encouraging more women to demand to be heard at the top of their game in some of those big fancy offices that typically are occupied by men, is that we have the power, as women, to change the basic definition of success for everybody.
Women can bring different skills to the table, and if we do that then we can change the way the table looks. That’s what her new organisation Lean In is all about: changing what the world of work means to us. And men, statistically more likely to be the boss than we are, can’t do it alone. They want to change what “success” is too, but can’t do it without us.
Boys are good at some stuff, and girls are good at other stuff, and it takes all of us to stand together, side-by-side and say HEY, THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE. THIS IS THE HAPPY MEDIUM. THIS IS SUCCESS.
We can change so much, but we’ve got to make a bigger fuss about doing it. Put on the power suits (or not) and infiltrate the enemy and change it from within. I’m pretty sure that is what Sandberg is essentially saying. The enemy is absolute not men, of course- the enemy is the core, key value set we continue to hold even though these values are outdated and irrelevant to us.
I invite you to become as obsessed with the entire Lean In movement as much as I have, whether you are male or female. Suddenly I feel a responsibility, as a feminist, as a woman, AS A HUMAN BEING, to be accountable for our everyday working lives- after all, we’re there so bloody much- and to tell you all how very wrong I originally was about this woman’s intentions, and how very right they are for all of us.
We don’t have to act like men to see a shift in values, but we do have to step up alongside them, with them, to shift the career landscape and our value system all together, for everyone.
There’s going to be a workplace revolution, and I, for one, want a piece of it.
Want to say something about this post?